Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Local sweet cherries are available now.  They seem to be especially sweet this year.  I like to buy local cherries from one of my favorite orchards, Robinette’s which  is where I got the sweet cherries for the Barbecue Sauce recipe.

Years ago when I first discovered Robinette’s, it was just a very small orchard with an Apple Haus and a gift barn.  Over the years it has grown to include a bakery, winery, and a lot of family activities.  It is nearby and is still my favorite orchard.  Robinette’s must be doing something right, because they have been in business since 1911.

They also grow the hard to find fresh sour (tart) cherries. As well as the sweet cherries, I bought 7 pounds of their sour cherries for pies.


There are a lot of ways to enjoy the local sweet cherries.  Although, I think possibly the best way is to just eat them one right after the other.  However, this Cherry Barbecue Sauce is a great way to enjoy a savory recipe using sweet cherries.  It tastes great on grilled pork or chicken.

Cherry Barbecue Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups pitted sweet cherries, roughly chopped
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste (or ketchup)
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the cherries and cook until they are heated through.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.  Sir occasionally.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.  Then transfer the sauce to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a container and cool to room temperature.    Cover tightly with a cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Yields about 2 1/2 cups.  

Summer seems to be going by way too fast.  My Bee Balm was pretty this year but is now fading fast.  It is a good thing that the butterflies don’t seem to mind.

Strawberry Trifle

Since the strawberry season had a late start this summer,  we still have local strawberries available.  That gives us an opportunity to enjoy even more delicious strawberry desserts.

One of my favorite farms to visit is Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm.  They grow many fruits and vegetables and also offer U-Pick.  I especially love the strawberries I buy from them.  Later in the season, they also offer less than perfect looking strawberries at a discounted price for making jam.

I made this trifle for our recent 4th of July celebration.  This dessert looks really pretty in a footed glass trifle dish.  I used a round plastic bowl because I needed to transport the dessert.

This strawberry trifle is a delicious way to use some of the local strawberries.  In fact, I only make it when locally grown strawberries are available.

Strawberry Trifle

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 quarts fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1 loaf (10 3/4 ounces) frozen pound cake, thawed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

In a large bowl, toss strawberries with the granulated sugar; set aside.  Let the strawberries stand at room temperature until juices are released, at least 30 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the whipped cream until well combined.  Set aside.  (Reserve a small amount for garnish, if desired.)

Drain the strawberries.  Reserve the juice and set the berries aside.  Lightly sprinkle the cake cubes with the reserved strawberry juice.  (You may not need all of the strawberry juice.)

Cover the bottom of a large trifle dish or 4 quart clear bowl with half of the cake cubes.  Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over the cake cubes; top with half of the strawberries.  Repeat the layers with remaining cake cubes, cream cheese mixture, and strawberries.  Garnish with the reserved cream cheese mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  

I used a Sara Lee frozen pound cake.


Strawberry Lemonade

Every summer, I look forward to the locally grown strawberries.  But this year, we had to wait longer to enjoy these red beauties of summer.  We had so much rain and cool weather that it caused a delay in the picking of the berries.  Strawberries need the heat and the sun to ripen.

Fortunately, our local strawberry season finally started a couple of weeks ago.  The strawberries are available at nearby local farms and Farmers Markets.  Below are some of the strawberries I picked up locally.

For the past couple of summers, I have been making a homemade strawberry lemonade made with the local strawberries.  This strawberry lemonade is a very refreshing and delicious drink and is perfect for a hot summer day.  It is also very easy to make.  For a more festive drink, a splash of vodka can be added to your glass of strawberry lemonade.

Strawberry Lemonade

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and stems removed
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup water

2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups water

Combine the cup of sugar with 2 cups of water.  Microwave for 2 minutes or heat on the stove until very hot.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor; top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Pour 1 cup of water over the sugared strawberries.  Blend or process until smooth.  Strain the strawberry puree through a fine mesh sieve, if desired.

Combine the strawberry puree, reserved sugar water mixture, lemon juice and 4 cups of water in a large pitcher.  Stir until blended.  Chill before serving.

Yes, we have had a rainy early summer but a bright spot to the rain can be found in rainbows.  A beautiful rainbow was spotted in West Michigan after our last rain.  Some even spotted a double rainbow.  Here are  photos of the rainbow my beautiful daughter took in Belmont, MI.

1.  I used 9 standard sized lemons for two cups of juice.
2.  I have a BTipsy Jumbo Citrus Hand Juicer that I used to juice the lemons.  I got it several years ago from Amazon for about $14.00.
3.  Adapted from allrecipes All Natural Strawberry Lemonade.


Roasted Asparagus with Bernaise Sauce

I have to admit to being a new fan of asparagus.  I tried it a couple of  years ago and now I love it and look forward to the local Michigan grown crop.

The Michigan asparagus season begins in late April-early May in southwest Michigan and wraps up in late June up North.  I usually find it here in Grand Rapids around the middle of May.  Michigan ranks #2 in asparagus production in the USA.  California is #1 and Washington State is #3 in production.  Source

While asparagus is great simply roasted in the oven and served as is, I do like it with a Bernaise sauce.  For this post, I am using a shortcut for the Bernaise sauce.  It is made from the Knorr Bernaise Sauce Mix.  It is actually very good.  I have made Ina Gartner’s blender recipe for Bernaise Sauce.  It is also very good and not that difficult to make if you are looking for one from scratch.

Roasted Asparagus with Bernaise Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Easy Bernaise Sauce

1 (9-oz) packet Knorr Bearnaise Sauce Mix
1 cup Half-and-Half (or milk)
1/4 cup butter

Whisk the sauce mix and 1 cup half-and-half in a small saucepan.  Add 1/4 cup butter and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened, about 1 minute.  Makes about 1 cup sauce.

Roasted Asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash and dry the asparagus.  Break or cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Toss the asparagus to coat it completely with the olive oil and seasonings.

Spread the asparagus out in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.  Serve with Bernaise sauce.

This time of year, we start seeing beautiful wildflowers alongside the roadways and in wooded areas.  They are actually an invasive plant called dame’s rocket.  They are still beautiful flowers and a welcome sight in late May and early June.  I took these pictures at a nearby park where I see them every year.




Key Lime Pie

This is a vintage Key Lime Pie recipe adapted from one that I found in a pamphlet published in 1946.  Florida Keys Cooking is a pamphlet of native recipes compiled by Patricia Atman and self published in Patricia’s Notebook in 1946.

While similar to a traditional Key Lime Pie, it differs in that stiffly beaten egg whites are folded into the condensed milk and egg yolk mixture.  Folding in the beaten egg whites gives the pie a light, mouselike texture.  This pie is not as sweet as some of the other versions.

Key Lime Pie

1 9-inch deep dish pie crust, baked


4 eggs, separated
1 14 ounce can Condensed Milk
1/2 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the yolks of 4 eggs along with the white of one of the eggs, until thick.  Add the condensed milk and beat again until mixed in.  Add the lime juice and zest, and beat until thick.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the 3 remaining egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk and condensed milk mixture.  Pour into the prepared pie crust and bake about 15-20  minutes or until the pie is set.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  Refrigerate overnight before slicing. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with lime slice and zest, if desired.  

I used the fresh limes (Persians) which are readily available in USA markets since Key limes are not usually available.

My Spring became a lot brighter a couple of days ago when a beautiful Baltimore Oriole stopped by.  They are such beautiful birds.

French Toast

Many years ago when I was still living in Florida (Panama City), we took a trip to the Florida Keys.  That was a wonderful trip in which I discovered some amazing food and drink:  Key Lime Pie, deep fried French toast, and gin martinis.  To this day, I still enjoy a good martini and quite often make Key Lime Pie and French toast.

I always serve maple syrup with french toast, waffles, or pancakes.  And recently, I was gifted with some homemade maple syrup from a gardener friend.  The maple syrup was made from maple trees within the Grand Rapids area.  Some of the maple trees tapped were located on my daughter’s property.  That makes this maple syrup even more special.

Below are pictures of one of the tapped maple trees from my daughter’s property, the maple syrup evaporator, and the finished product: maple syrup.

While Vermont leads the nation in the making of maple syrup (1.9 million gallons yearly), Michigan is in the top 10 U.S producers, usually around fifth place (producing around 90,000 gallons per year).  Although according to Michigan State University Extension, Michigan has enough trees to outproduce Vermont.  Only about 3 to 5 percent of the sugar maples are currently being tapped.  Source is mlive

When it comes to maple syrup, we must not forget our friends from the North.  Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of maple products ($381 million in 2016).

Typically, French toast is cooked in butter.  I prefer cooking with the vegetable oil.  The French toast fries up with a crisp exterior and a tender center.  All it needs is butter and maple syrup and you have a special occasion breakfast.

French Toast

  • Servings: 4-6
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9 slices of thickly cut Sour Dough bread
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

oil for frying (such as vegetable oil)

maple syrup and butter for serving

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F (or low setting).

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Whisk until well combined.

Heat about 1/2 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Dip each side of the bread in the egg mixture.  Carefully add the bread slices to the skillet and cook in the hot oil until light golden brown on each side (about 1-2 minutes per side).  Keep the cooked French toast warm in the oven while preparing the other slices of bread.  Serve warm with pure maple syrup and butter.  

1. The recipe comes together quickly, so have the bread sliced and egg mixture made before heating the oil in the skillet.
2.  Other breads such as Italian, Challah or French baguette are good for making French toast.





Easter Sandwich Cookies With Lemon Curd

Easter is only a couple weeks away.  A lot of us in the US will celebrate Easter with family gatherings and good food.  We nearly always have a ham dinner with a lot of side dishes and desserts.

Some of the folklore associated with Easter includes colored eggs and the Easter bunny.  This may not be the Easter bunny, but here is a picture of a cute bunny that is occasionally in my yard.

I saw some pretty pastel Easter Linzer cookies with a lemon curd filling on Fancy Flours‘ web site, and I was inspired to bake up some similar cookies.  Except, I used a sugar cookie recipe and homemade lemon curd.

These are pretty cookies with the pastel colored powder sugars and will remind you of Spring.

You can use store bought lemon curd but I really recommend making your own.  I have made the microwave version twice.  It is so easy to make and delicious.  You will want to eat it straight from the jar.

The sandwich cookies are not too sweet with a hint of lemon from the lemon curd,  and the cutout on the top cookie allows the lemon curd filling to peak through.

Microwave Lemon Curd

1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth.  Stir in the lemon juice and butter.  Cook in the microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.  Remove from the microwave, and pour into small clean jars.  Store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups of lemon curd.  

Easter Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract.  Combine the flour, salt and baking soda and gradually beat into the creamed mixture.  Beat just until the dough comes together.

Shape the dough into a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using an egg shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into an egg shapes.  On half of the cookies, use a tiny bunny cookie cutter to cut out a bunny in the center of half of the whole cookies.  If desired, gather up the bunny scraps and roll out the dough again to create as many cookies as possible or bake them.  *See note.

Place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Place the cookies with the cutouts on a separate wire rack and lightly dust the tops with the colored powdered sugars.

On the bottom surface of the full cookie, spread with about 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon curd.  Place the cutout cookie on top and gently sandwich them together, trying not to smudge the powdered sugar.

Makes approximately 22 sandwich cookies.

Store cookies up to a week in the refrigerator.

1.  *Bake the mini bunny cutouts for only 3-4 minutes.  Mine got a little too brown.
2.  White powdered sugar can be used in place of the colored sugars.
3. I bought the colored powdered sugars, oval cutters, and mini Easter cutter set from Fancy Flours but I believe the same items are available from Amazon as well.
4.  Lemon curd recipe adapted from allrecipes.










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